Those who’ve spent the last 20 years traveling the country, buying thousands of cases and boxes from America’s basements, storage units and former card stores were starting to wonder if a sealed 1986-87 Fleer wax case still existed. Even rising prices for the Michael Jordan rookie cards they contained didn’t seem to shake anything from the trees.
The holy grail of basketball wax has revealed itself, tucked away for 33 NBA seasons. A full case, with the Wisconsin distributor’s name and address stamped on top, has been consigned to Collect Auctions where it went up for auction Monday at a minimum bid of $250,000. Within minutes, bidding had topped $1 million.
The consignor is Jeremy Fritsch of Fritsch Cards in Stevens Point, WI and it was the only one they owned. Collect Auctions, located a short drive from the Fritsch offices, has sold numerous vintage unopened boxes and cases from the company’s once huge unopened inventory, most all purchased in the original year of issue.
“The last time I knew of a sealed 1986-87 Fleer case hitting the market was in the late 1990s. I haven’t handled a sealed case since the late 80’s and didn’t think one still existed,’’ said Steve Hart, owner of Baseball Card Exchange, which has long specialized in vintage unopened material.
Plenty of 36-pack boxes have been opened and every once in a while a “find” of unopened boxes emerges, but the hunt for cases had proven fruitless in the 21st century. The unlikely survivor is likely to attract investors and basketball collectors with deep pockets. Inside are somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 uncirculated Michael Jordan rookie cards, all potentially worth five-figure prices, along with about three dozen Jordan rookie stickers.
The 1986-87 Fleer set is universally considered one of the most important and sought after sets of all-time. In addition to the Jordan rookie card and sticker, It also includes rookie issues of Hall of Famers like Karl Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley, Clyde Drexler and Patrick Ewing, to name just a few.
The auction will also include an extremely scarce 1987-88 Fleer factory-sealed case as well as a case of 1988-89 Fleer, an issue that has exploded in price in recent months. BBCE is expected to authenticate and wrap all three cases sometime in the coming days.
“We’re elated that Collect Auctions was chosen to be the auction house to offer this unprecedented 1986-87 Fleer Basketball wax case. It has become the Holy Grail of modern wax. I believe our Collect Auctions current sale is the strongest unopened lineup any auction house has ever offered,’’ said Steven Bloedow, director of auctions at Collect Auctions.
Hundreds of other lots will also be up for grabs in the auction, which is set to run through August 6.
There are currently several packs and one unopened box of 1986 Fleer basketball on eBay.